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New device swings open restroom doors -- hands free

April 7, 2010 |  3:59 pm

Business owners and landlords who want to soothe the germ-haters among us have a new way to spend money: an electrically operated machine that lets people leave a public restroom without touching a door handle.

As the makers of Sanidoor ominously claim, about half the people walking out of a restroom on a given day haven't stopped to wash their hands. Some microbe-conscious people who do stop to wash often carry a paper towel to the door, use it to clasp the handle and then chuck the paper on the floor as they leave, the company says. Evidence of such behavior can be found pretty much any time in the third-floor men's room at The Times, though the percentage of hand washing (or at least perfunctory quick rinsing) there appears to be close to 100%, at least when colleagues are present.

Messy piles of damp paper towels can be eliminated and icky door handles can be avoided with the aid of Sanidoor, a $1,300 gizmo that will open a door when you wave your hand in front of an electric eye nearby. Customers of the Daytona Beach, Fla., company already include the P.F. Changs restaurant up the coast in Jacksonville and the Port Orange Steakhouse. Now the company hopes to launch throughout North America.

-- Roger Vincent